In the present study, linkages were examined between parental behaviors (maternal practices) at bedtime, emotional availability of mothering at bedtime, and infant sleep quality in a cross-sectional sample of families with infants between 1 and 24 months of age. Observations of maternal behaviors and maternal emotional availability were conducted independently by 2 sets of trained observers who were blind to data being coded by the other. With infant age statistically controlled, specific maternal behaviors at bedtime were unrelated to infant sleep disruptions at bedtime and during the night. By contrast, emotional availability of mothering at bedtime was significantly and inversely related to infant sleep disruption, and, although these links were stronger for younger infants, they were significant for older infants as well. Maternal emotional availability was also inversely linked with mothers' ratings of whether their infants had sleep difficulties. These findings demonstrate that parents' emotional availability at bedtimes may be as important, if not more important, than bedtime practices in predicting infant sleep quality. Results support the theoretical premise that parents' emotional availability to children in sleep contexts promotes feelings of safety and security and, as a result, better-regulated child sleep.
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